Tuesday 22 September 2020

Microsoft buys Bethesda, begins next-gen pre-orders

It's the autumn equinox, heralding my favourite season of all, in the northern hemisphere and Microsoft began pre-orders for Series X and S (affiliate link) with selected retailers this morning.

Having successfully pre-ordered a PlayStation 5 (PS5), I was ambivalent about a Series X on day-one (currently own an Xbox One X) until yesterday's surprise announcement Microsoft had bought Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion dollars, eclipsing Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm. The latest acquisition brings Xbox Game Studios first-party total to 23 developers working on current and next-gen titles.

"As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

Bethesda has a storied history with Xbox beginning with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. This will further bolster Game Pass, which was already a great value with the addition of EA Play later this year - I can't wait to play The Sims 4 Star Wars: Journey to Batuu expansion. Doom, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout will now become Xbox Game Studios franchises.

“This is a thrilling day for this company, our employees, and our fans," said Robert Altman, chairman and CEO of ZeniMax, in a statement. "We have enjoyed a close partnership with Microsoft for decades, and this deal is a natural progression of those years working together."

What impact (if any) this has on the future of multi-platform releases and PS5 timed-exclusives remains to be seen. Microsoft was previously linked with buying Warner Bros. Interactive from AT&T and there were fervent denials regarding approaching Bungie. In related news. From today Destiny 2 joins Game Pass and major expansion Beyond Light will be playable from launch on 10th November.

Unlike the chaos of PS5 pre-orders, Series X and S was a relatively leisurely experience in comparison. The Redmond-based company had announced global pre-orders would begin at 8:00AM local time.

My Alexa alarm woke me early and, as I drank my first cup of tea of the day serenaded by a robin in the garden, I was able to order a Series X via the Amazon app with ease. However, some sites crashed including Xbox All Access partners Game and Smyths Toys. Both retailers stopped taking online orders and urged customers to order in-store. This may not be an option for everyone due to coronavirus and the threat of a second wave this winter.

The Verge and IGN have reported a surge in Xbox One X sales. Microsoft's confusing nomenclature may mean some gamers could be left disappointed when they realise it's not a Series X under the Christmas tree this holiday season.

Microsoft's purchase of ZeniMax Media doesn't mark the end of the company's acquisition trail. Rumours suggest Sega, the Japanese publisher famous for ending Nintendo's dominance during the 16-bit console era, is next. Only a few months ago there were suggestions of a Sega-branded Series X and S being released in the territory. The stunning Shock Blue wireless controller has only added to the speculation ahead of Xbox at Tokyo Game Show 2020.

Did you try pre-ordering an Xbox Series X or S? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. The whole ZeniMax announcement through me for a loop. The first thing I thought was, “This is the Darkest Timeline”, but then I realized it’s not that bad. Bethesda has made some poor choices over the years that all started with “Horse Armor” DLC for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and several other decisions since then that wasn’t in he customer’s best interest. Still, it allows Bethesda to do what they do best. Hopefully they’ll do heir best to replace the decades old engine that has the same old bugs since Morrowind. There’s a lot of talented studios here. When Game Pass was announced, I thought it was a great idea but MS would have to do something drastic to get developers on board. Otherwise I’ll just be a home or several-year-old third party games with first party giants.

    I think most franchises will remain on both platforms. Absolute worst case the new AAA titles will be timed exclusives on their platform. Still free though.

    I think it’s a great move. I never thought I’d want a Series X but this move by MS has me thinking this is a must-have.

    1. I've decided there's mileage in my Xbox One X and will get a Series S for a second room.

  2. I'm so happy I haven't gotten around to buying Doom Eternal yet - especially since it's hitting Game Pass next week now :D

    The Bethesda acquisition was a master strike by Microsoft, especially the day before preorders opened.

    I cancelled my PS5 pre-order the same day. It wasn't related to the announcement, I just decided that I had enough stuff to occupy probably 2-3 lifetimes of spare time (which I don't have) and I'm firmly invested in the Xbox ecosystem.

    I would like to play the Spider-Man games. I might pick up a cheap PS4 next year, I might even get a PS5 at some point. But I don't want to be in a position where I was this gen where I bought a PS4 and never bought any games for it so never used it, then sold it, then bought another cheap then waited for Spider-Man then needed some extra cash so sold it (and I still haven't played Spider-Man).

    I've preordered a Series X for the living room, a Series S for my eldest for Christmas (rather than him getting yet another Xbox hand me down). I'll keep a OneX for my bedroom (possibly) and sell the remaining OneX and One. Might even sell both to be fair. Haven't switched the bedroom Xbox on since we moved here a month ago now.

    Exciting times, and very soon the Xbox Series X will be here NEXT MONTH. Until then, I'll keep playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater.

    1. Excellent! I too have cancelled my PS5 pre-order! A 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display is a priority (more so during the pandemic) and a Series S for the bedroom.

      As you say, Game Pass is a win-win and soon there'll be support for iOS despite pushback from Apple in the wake of its manufactured spat with Epic Games.


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